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Is Acai a Miracle Berry?

Aarti Patel Email Aarti Patel
April 2010
Is Acai a Miracle Berry? Healthwatch.jpgAs a fitness professional, I get asked from time to time whether a certain “health” product or supplement will help someone lose weight. One such product, which has received much media attention recently and is heavily marketed as a super rich antioxidant, is the acai (pronounced ah-sigh-ee) berry. The acai berry is a small round berry almost similar to the blueberry and is only found in the dense, difficult-to-access swampy areas of the Brazilian Amazon rain forest. It is found on tall slender palm trees that grow up to thirty meters. Natives of the region have been using the berry as a health food and for medicinal purposes for a long time. The berry is perishable and must be consumed immediately or frozen to retain its nutritional value. It is because of this that the acai berry is difficult to transport to other regions of the world.

 

In recent times, the acai berry has been publicized greatly and is being heavily marketed as a weight loss product. Makers of acai berry products claim the berry is a wonder food that can do a whole lot of things besides promote weight loss—increase energy, improve metabolism, lessen fatigue, promote youthfulness, improve sexual function, brighten the complexion, and serve as an exceptional antioxidant. Some acai berry products even claim to increase the “good” cholesterol, and prevent diabetes and some cancers! While much confusion exists about this miracle berry, one thing is for sure—there isn’t a shortage of the types of acai berry products available, most of them promising weight loss! For example, there are acai berry juices, smoothies, teas, energy drinks, capsules and even candy, ice cream and chocolate. There are Web sites promoting the endless health benefits of the berry and enticing consumers to buy in with free trial offers. Alluring pictures of lean-toned bodies and celebrity clientele promising weight loss lure many consumers into buying acai products. Some sites even contain “warnings” about other acai products, stating that only their products are pure and nutritious while others are a scam.

 

The Center for Science in the Public Interest is warning consumers “not to enroll online in supposedly free trials of diet products made with the trendy Brazilian berry acai. There is no evidence whatsoever to suggest that acai pills will help shed pounds, flatten tummies, cleanse colons, enhance sexual desire, or perform any of the other commonly advertised functions. And thousands of consumers have had trouble stopping recurrent charges on their credit cards when they cancel their free trials.” Along with that, the Better Business Bureau has warned consumers to beware of Internet companies that sell these scam weight loss acai berry products and of bogus blogs with fake before and after photos.

 

While it is true that the acai berry has some antioxidants, according to the CSPI, the acai berry has only middling levels of antioxidants. You would obtain the same in a piece of dark chocolate or a glass of red wine. The bottom line is that there are no conclusive studies about the acai berry and none that suggest that antioxidants have an effect on weight loss!  

 

So what about those natives and indigenous tribes who have benefited from consuming this so called superfood and miracle berry? Their toned muscles and fitness are probably a result of their active lifestyle and not because of consuming a berry. After all, doesn’t exercise and a healthy lifestyle promote weight loss, increased energy, low cholesterol levels, better sleep, increased metabolism, reverse the ageing process, better digestion, and countless other health benefits – all that the acai berry products claim to do?


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